Friday, 13 June 2014

Police Escorts, Untrustworthy Toots, and Other Ramblings from the Week

Well folks, it is Day 33, which means there are 54 that stand between me and my return to Canada! Crazy!

Monday started with a meeting at 9 am for preparations for this week’s Seminar. As per previous comments, we were left waiting for several others to arrive for 45 minutes to an hour. I was a little annoyed but made a conscious decision to just accept that this is a way of being. Following what should have been a very brief meeting (meaning, we should have been done by the time the first person decided to join us), 5 of us piled into a taxi and made our way to four different schools in Koforidua to deliver the letters requesting their students’ participation in the Seminar scheduled for Thursday of this week. Yeah, that’s right… we asked permission to have students attend an event that was to take place a few days later! Imagine if we attempted to do this in Canada! It is this aspect of life in Ghana that I appreciate, but am also perplexed by. As the theme of the seminar was pollution, the schools all seemed to be eager to participate, which was awesome. One school was extremely enthusiastic, by stating that the topic was so important, that anything they could do to make a positive impact on the environment was something they wanted to be a part of. This was exciting, until we left the school, and I was greeted with an array of garbage strewn about on the ground just outside the building! Can’t win ‘em all, I suppose! Haha

This outing, I’m sure, seems really exciting to those of you reading, but I haven’t even shared with you the best part of this little adventure. The cab we took came equipped with a few television-esque screens, and music videos that had the words written out. This is a little something I now like to call “The Karaoke Kab”! I’m sure everyone who was smooshed into that taxi was surprised by the joy that I experienced upon the first song I happily belted out. It was Joe’s “I Wanna Know.” Pretty sure that was circa high school for me, meaning no one else knew it (it’s great to be so old! Haha)! The taxi rides throughout the rest of our time delivering letters transitioned from a sampling of Joe’s discography, to The Lion King soundtrack, and ended with the sweet, sweet jams of Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits. Friends, I’m afraid life will never be the same. This was Monday, and today, as of Friday, I have yet to see Karaoke Kab since. Let us all please take a moment of silence…

The days in between letter delivery and Thursday’s Seminar were fairly slow. We spent a few hours each day putting together the outline of the two-hour event (that like everything else we've done so far ran well passed that!), and researching the latest information on the three main topics: Land, Water, and Air Pollution. I’ll give you one guess as to which theme I was assigned to talk about. If you guessed water, you’d be right. If you guessed either of the other choices, I’m questioning whether you know me at all! For me, this was a good challenge. The subject of water pollution is huge, and with only 20 minutes to present my section, it meant I had to make some pretty big decisions of what should stay and what should go.

The day of the Seminar I woke up so hyper I had trouble containing my energy. This was most likely the result of a few factors: a) it was the first time I slept through the night without waking up and b) it was the first activity we were doing that dealt with a subject I was actually interested in! The day was to start at 9:30 am, with students being picked up starting at 9:00. When a few of us arrived at 8:45 am, we were surprised to be greeted by William, and about half of the sixty students we were anticipating! This made for an exceptionally awkward set up, particularly as setting up the projector did not go so smoothly. Seriously, why am I always the “tech-savvy” one?!

Overall, I think the event went fairly well. There were, of course, those anticipated hiccups that occur with things like this, but the students seemed receptive to what we were saying. I started my session with a grim story about how much water we have on the planet versus how much we can actually consume. I’m pretty sure some kids had nightmares last night as a result of what I shared… And, for the record, using 1 liter of water to represent all of the water found on Earth, only one drop is what we have to use for human consumption. So… you should probably consider that for a little while (especially those of you who might be reading this that are known to take daily 45 minute showers… You know who you are!)!

After the seminar, I spoke at length with the representative from (and our main contact at) the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana, Cyril… *swoon*

As I've alluded to in this and previous posts, I’m finding we are enjoying more free time, and less time concentrated on project related things. Sometimes this downtime is nice, but being as I came to Ghana to actually work, this has been a huge source of frustration for me. So, my chat with Cyril was an inquiry about what I can be doing in this spare time to help them out. The answer – guess who’s the new head of the EPA?! Yeah, not me, and it turns out there isn't a whole lot that I can do, well, at least that is associated with the EPA. However, there are some potential outings that I may be able to tag along for, such as site- scouting for pending EIAs, tree planting, and other agency related things. Hopefully this will work out, because it would be an awesome networking opportunity, AND I’m interested to learn more about the practices here in the Eastern Region. Two topics I spoke to Cyril about in detail were the possibility of designing a plan for a recycling program start up, and looking into fog-water harvesting as a means for providing drinking water to the residents of Koforidua (thanks, Alice, for bringing that topic to my attention! The paper I wrote for you is proving to be quite useful!). Perhaps my time in Ghana will not end in two months…

So, as I stated in the beginning of this post, we've been in Ghana for a full month. The five of us are all quite different, but for the most part, I feel, that all things considered, we get along well. However, as can be expected in any group work situation, each of our work styles are also quite different. This has presented a few tensions between us to date, but not in any great way… that is until 10 minutes after the Seminar. I’m not going to go into detail about it, but we had our first outburst (which I’m actually surprised hadn't happened sooner given the fact that we didn't know each other prior to our arrival, and our obvious personality differences). Was it handled in a way I would have approached it? Not really. So, it’s going to be a very interesting few days. Well, it’s already been an interesting 24 hours. It’s been a little awkward, particularly as I seem to be torn by both sides of the indifference. If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it’s conflict. Being the Mama Bear sucks in times like this. I just want everyone to get along…

Well, that’s about all I've got. My tan is continuously improving, my slight sunburn has disappeared, and I am still lovin’ the fact that I am in Africa!

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